Kid-Approved Tortellini & Veggie Soup

I'm not a chef. Won't pretend to be. Really, my husband understands the kitchen better than me. But, I do prefer a healthy meal. Filled with goodness to make the kids grow strong. And, something simple. Ingredients I can easily find at the supermarket. Finally, a recipe that takes less than 30 minutes and fits on an index card.

I came across the following recipe in a $1 item at Target, Family Fun's "Kid-Friendly Meals: School Night Suppers."

Twelve ingredients, including salt and pepper. Tortellini. My favorite. The taste was above the dollar I spent on the book. And, both baby Ella and preschooler Jack devoured it. Even the vegetables. My favorite about the recipe is you can add in new veggies each time. Creativity for the simple cooks.

Tortellini Vegetable Soup

2 tbls olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small zucchini, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried basil (more if fresh)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
8-9 ounces tortellini (cheese or meat)
2-3 tbls chopped parsley
black pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot or large saucepan. Add onion, zucchini and carrot. Saute over moderate heat 8 - 10 min., stirring often, or until onion is soft/translucent.

2. Add the stock, basil, bay leaf, tomatoes and salt to the pot. Increase heat and bring mixture to low boil. Add tortellini and bring back to low boil. Cook for two min., then reduce heat and simmer 5 - 6 min. Gently stir in parsley and pepper during last minute.


ABC. Not as Easy as 123.

Our three-year-old Jack has been singing the ABCs since he was just over two. Clearer than crystal. He can also count to 30. To ten in Spanish, with no help. But, when it comes to identifying letters and sounds or numbers, he's clueless. I hold up a "B," he boldly shouts "Jay!" I ask what letter dinosaur starts with he says "A, ah ah!" 


We've been aware at his resistance to absorbing the alphabet. But, his recent preschool assessment reinforced our knowledge. "Jack needs improvement on recognizing letters and numbers." Unlike Jack, I've absorbed this.

For the past few months, we've been working on letter and number recognition. Sounds easy. But, maintaining a preschoolers attention is quite challenging. So, I found a few games that keep things fresh. Hold his interest. And, hopefully he'll start to catch on.

ABC Cookies
Jack loves his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut in shapes. I found a box of 101 kid-themed cookie cutters at the supermarket. From holiday and transportation shapes to letters and numbers. Every week I match his sandwich to the featured letter of the week at preschool. But, why not actually cut letter cookies? Duh.

Alphabet Hunt Game
Jack received foam letter bath toys last Christmas. While we do practice in the tub (find the letter "C" among numerous floating letters), I uncovered many Alphabet Hunt Games on other Mom blogs. Sort of like an Easter Egg Hunt, Jack has to find the letters around the house. If he guesses the letter correctly when he finds one, he gets a special treat. Or sticker. Depending on how well he's doing.

Letters from Objects
This one's pretty simple and takes no time to prepare. Use objects, such as noodles, legos, crayons, to create different letters. We even used his trucks one time to make the letter "T."

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
We've done indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts, but I recently came across the inspiration to host an Alphabet Scavenger Hunt. Find objects and things in the house that start with each letter of the alphabet. 

ABC Mat Game
This is our favorite. I discovered numerous ways to play this game. Here's our way: we place the ABC foam mat in order A to Z. Then, I pull out Jack's wood letter blocks. He picks a wood block and matches it with the correct foam letter. To keep his interest, I offer a sticker if he gets it right. If he can repeat the letter and what sound it makes, he gets a treat. 


Red Leaves and Green Snot

Well, it’s definitely fall. Not because of the cozy boots or vibrant leaves. But, because our family weathered our first sickness.

As a parent, the beauty of autumn signifies the ugly of sick. Unending snot. Horrific coughs. Watery eyes. And, “well we can’t prescribe her anything” nod from the doctor.

Puffy-eyed Ella with her first cold of the 2012 season.
When he turned one, Jack (now three) started daycare two days a week. And, he was sick November through April. Literally visiting the pediatrician every 14 days. I cried thinking something was terribly wrong. Reconsidered my play on returning to work. We were basically loosing money. And, he was miserable.

A good friend with two kids promised it was normal. My Mom, research, readings and own doctor even reassured it was typical. A kid’s first year in daycare is the pits.

Ella just turned ten months. She started daycare last month. As a Mom-of-Two, I know she’ll get sick. There’s no preventative. Especially for a baby who loves to taste everything. Hands her pacifier to everyone. And, drag her mini-blanket across the floor. Everywhere.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that kids under two shouldn’t use over-the-counter cold and cough medications. So, there are a few tricks and techniques (some our pediatrician never mentioned) that we discovered to help our tiny people sleep and feel better.

Quickly insert saline drops. Quickly.
Babies hate to get their nose sucked. Even more so when it’s followed by saline drops. But, quickly instilling a drop or two of saline in each side of the nose will help loosen up the mucus. Doing so before feedings will help them eat better, since babies primarily breath out of their nose.

Green snot isn’t always an infection.
According to Rod Moser, PhD, PA, on WebMDExpert Blogs, colored snot doesn’t always indicate a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics. He advised to see the pediatrician if green mucous persists more than 7 – 10 days.

It’s all in the steam technique
Before bed, we close the door and soak the kid in a hot bath. Not scorching. Warm enough to fog the glass. We’d add bubbles of Johnson’s Soothing Vapor Baby Bath to clear the nose. Afterwards, we’d towel off and read a book or play games in the bathroom as we turned up the shower heat. Smoked out the mucus and cough.

When Jack was a baby, a steamy bathroom was the only trick.
Cool mist vs. hot steam?
Both do the trick. After the vapor steam shower, we turned the cool mist humidifier up full blast in the kid’s room. FYI, humidifiers can grow mold so they need to be cleaned and inspected often. 

Nix the aches
A little ibuprofen or acetaminophen may sometimes do the trick. Especially with the aches and pains. Be careful though, our pediatrician warned that such medications may dry things out even more, causing the coughing to intensify. Rookie parents beware.

Note: Medications should not be given to babies under three months. Dose is based on weight, not age.
Click here for an acetaminophen dosage chart
Click here for an ibuprofen dosage chart

Vapor rub the chest and ... feet?
Nowadays, they make a vapor rub safe for babies three months and older. Vicks Vapor Rub  contains soothing aloe, oils and eucalyptus to soothe babies. Most infant rubs are made without camphor or menthol, which shouldn't be used on children under two. You can also find recipes to make your own rub. 

The trick is to not only apply the rub to the chest and neck, but also the feet. Then put on some socks. An old friend once told me this amazing technique, which really does work for some silly reason.

Warm up the day with chicken soup
Chicken soup really does help kids feel better. Studies prove it actually relieves cold symptom such as aches, fever and congestion. Other warm liquids, like apple juice or chamomile tea can help relieve symptoms during the day. If your baby is at least six months old, try warm liquids to make the days easier for you both.

Best-kept secret: Vapor Plug In for Babies
PediCare, Vicks and other brands make waterless, vapor plug-ins safe for babies. Like an aroma therapy plugged right into their outlet. Genious. Like most, PediCare's Gentle Vapors Plug-In is non-medicated and contains a blend of eucalyptus, lavender (proven to help people sleep) and other aromatic ingredients. Vicks Vaporizer Plug-In lasts up to eight hours. 

BabyCenter's Cough, Cold and Flu: What to Do
Mayo Clinic: Common cold in babies

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